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Move to a different role successfully

At some time, many will explore (or make) a change in their job scope, geography, company, or even industry.


In the IT services industry, relocations to another country, program managers and sales hunters moving to account management roles, and project leaders working for their end clients are examples.


When thinking of a move to a new job type.


  1. Stay close to the knitting

  2. Play to your strengths

  3. Make one change at a time

  4. Be humble and prepared to take a step down


Stay close to the knitting

In his book “Outliers “, Malcolm Gladwell writes that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to become truly proficient”.

If you have put in those hours, use the proficiency to your advantage when evaluating a new role.


There is value in accrued experience. Leverage it.


Frank has a very accomplished track record winning new clients for IT services. Over years of practice and diligence he has built the skills, temperament, and a method which help him deliver consistent results.


If considering a move to a different role, Frank should assess roles where he can leverage this expertise.

Using the same proficiency in identifying / mapping and winning new buyers, he could sell to a large, multi-location account across different buying centers and geographies as a sales client partner.


He could also re-purpose these same skills to winning new clients for a closely related offering, an IT platform like AWS or a similar cloud platform + service offering.


In both these transitions he will be able to reuse his accrued expertise and be productive quickly.


In contrast, a move to a role with significant delivery & operations responsibility will require considerable re-learning. It will put Frank at a disadvantage vs. those who have invested the 10,000 hours honing themselves in these roles. May not be the best move to consider.


Play to your strengths

What has contributed most to your professional success? Is it the ability to engage with clients, technical depth, functional knowledge, or the effective management of teams?


Aim for roles which will best utilize these strengths.


Good practice - When making this assessment, get input from colleagues who have observed you closely at work and will share honest feedback.


Frank builds very good connect with prospects when discussing a business case for what he sells. He is an attentive listener, makes an effort to relate to the buyer, and address their buying priorities in his discussions.


The best role moves for him will be those where he is engaging directly with potential customers – preferably in person.


Often, these proficient sales persons get promoted to sales manager roles. Some adapt and succeed but for many this is a difficult transition. Individuals like Frank may excel in selling 1x1 but grooming and mentoring other sales persons may not be their strength.


As a program manager, Senthil has shown that he is also very good at identifying and winning new projects. If looking for a role transition, he could explore moving to a sales client partner role, reusing his strength and ability to identify and win new business.


Sujit, on the other hand gets into the finer details of each project he is engaged in. He also loves exploring new technologies and how they can be incorporated. For him, roles which identify emerging technologies, how to best adopt them, and then ensure successful project outcomes are likely the best fit. Sales or revenue generation positions, probably not.


Make one change at a time

There will be a learning curve when changing roles. To ensure that early productivity, keep the changes and the need to learn new skills manageable.


Change role profile, company, location – one at a time.


Good practice - When aiming for a change in the role profile, first consider doing it with your existing employer.

When making a role change with an existing employer, the understanding of the company, its way of working, and the internal network will all be facilitators when ramping up to be successful in the new position. In addition, a good track record and tenure will buy time during that process.


On the other hand, when considering a move to a new company, geography, or industry, it may be best to stick to close to your existing role profile. If it’s sales you do well, stay with that when changing companies, geography, or moving to a contiguous industry.


Frank is moving from selling infrastructure services for Cognizant to selling infrastructure cloud for AWS.

Senthil has decided to move from program management to account sales. Since he could not get that role with his existing employer, he has decided to move to a new company.


Between Frank and Senthil, who has a higher likelihood of being productive faster?


Be humble and prepared to take a step down


When moving to a new role profile, it will take time to be as productive as those with similar years of work experience but with a longer tenure in the role or organization.


Acknowledge this. Be humble and prepared to take a role commensurate with how productive you are likely to be, even if it is a step down in title or role scope.


Senthil was leading programs with over 100 members. He had 4 project managers working for him. When making a migration to a client partner position, he was offered one as an individual contributor, not as a sales manager. Though a very proficient program leader, he still had to earn his stripes as a sales person.


At Cognizant, Frank was gunning for Fortune 100 companies and some of the largest deals. In his new role at AWS, he was given a small and medium business territory. The new employer wanted to see successful performance before entrusting Frank with its larger prospective accounts.


While reduced responsibility has a negative connotation, it actually is a plus when making a role, industry, or company change. It frees up bandwidth to understand and become proficient in the different requirements, processes, and success factors of the new role or company.


Those fond of gardening will relate to this. When transplanting from one bed to another, it takes a period before the roots take hold and the plant can reach for the skies.


Vinesh was leading a very large geography for an IT company in India with persons working for him. He was transferred to a sales role in the USA for IT services. A new offering and geography. Acknowledging that it will take time for him to learn the ropes and be fully productive, he made the move taking on an individual contributor role. Cream rises to the top. In three years, he was back in a leadership role, leading a large region in the new geography.


In closing


A different role can be an opportunity to learn new skills, gain new experiences, and even a career enhancement. The move may be to a new location, role type, employer or industry.


When considering this change, lean towards roles where you will be productive and competitive soon.

  • Aim to re-leverage accrued skills and experiences

  • Recognize your strengths and aim for roles where they can be best utilized

  • Keep the change manageable.

  • Be humble.


Acknowledge that you are moving into something new and will take time to be as proficient as

your more tenured peers.


Happy hunting!


Want to do a dip stick on the kind of role in technology services will fit you best? Try out the Valenco assessment workflow Check potential role fitments

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